Freddie Washington of Warren, father of 15 children, will be missed, family says
By Ed Runyan
The sign above the front door at Freddie D. Washington’s house on Mason Street Northwest says “Welcome.”
It’s the way Washington, 40, lived his life, says Faith Washington, 19, his oldest daughter and one of his 15 children.
“If you needed a place to stay, this house was your house,” she said this week from the front porch.
That played out in 2015 when Freddie’s sister, Teresa Washington, died. Freddie took on the extra responsibility of raising his sister’s two kids.
Knowing that the Washingtons could use some help, the nonprofit Team Sanders and Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, which runs the Trumbull County Land Bank, collaborated to provide the family with a renovated home on Mason Street.
It’s where Washington died in his sleep Oct. 2. Washington had some medical issues, but the family is awaiting additional testing in hopes of knowing more about what caused his death, said Melissa Schroeder, Freddie’s fiancee.
Washington’s funeral was Wednesday, but the family also will have a celebration of his life at 4 p.m. today in Packard Park.
Lynnette Lekutis, who had six kids with Freddie and moved to Warren with him 16 years ago from Lake County, Ohio, said the celebration is fitting because Freddie was planning an end-of-summer kid bash that also would have taken place in the park.
“He was a big family guy. He liked getting people together,” said another of his daughters, Emily Rhine.
Perhaps one of the things his family and friends will remember and laugh about today is the time he protected his family from a bear cub that came close to their house on Union Street Southwest.
“We were asleep, and the kids said, ‘There’s a bear outside. There’s a bear outside,’” Rhine said.
Washington, who had the nickname “Big Fred,” held his arms out to make himself look big, then successfully chased the bear away with a knife.
“They had a bear-on-man standoff,” Lekutis said playfully. “He stood up big to scare the bear away.”
Another time about nine years ago, Fred saved the lives of his twin sons when they got too far out in the water at Craig Beach.
“It was a big family thing with all of the kids,” Lekutis said. “The kids went out too far.”
“My dad saw them floating. He picked them up. He did CPR. They spit out a bunch of water,” Faith said. The boys, now 14, are fine, Faith said.
Though some of Freddie’s 15 children could be called stepchildren, it made no difference to Washington, Schroeder said.
“He considered all of them his children. We are all going to miss him.”
“He was a father figure to many.” Faith said.